Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us (Mt 6, 12)
“It is not enough for me to love God, if my neighbor does not love him,” says St. Vincent de Paul in the conference that I referred to last week (Coste XII, 262). Those “chosen by God as instruments of his immense and fatherly charity, which desires to dwell and expand in souls,” are to go “not to a parish, not just to a diocese, but throughout the world.” Their mission is the same as that of Jesus, “who came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with his love.”
It is not enough, therefore, for those who try to follow the Missionary Evangelizer of the poor to seek fellowship with him, if their neighbor is deprived of it. They cannot be like the Pharisee who invites Jesus and then casts doubt on his guest because the latter lets himself be touched by a reputed sinful woman. Those who are really interested in Jesus, and appreciate him, are not indifferent even to sinners, nor do they despise them.
Slighting a sinner smacks of self-righteousness. One steep in it acknowledges God, yes, and prays, “O God, I thank you.” But when he immediately declaims, “that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector,” then he gives himself away as someone looking for recognition, rather than someone giving it to the one he supposedly honors. A Pharisee of this sort does not feel any need for repentance or forgiveness. He thinks of himself as justified by his religious observance, not by grace or by faith in Christ. It should not be so for Jesus’ followers.
Genuine disciples are very well aware of the humble and wicked situations from which Jesus has rescued them. They confess that they are powerless and helpless without God’s grace. They admit that their adulterous acts are grave sins because they constitute breach of trust and abominable injustice against women, reduced into mere objects of pleasure, and against men, treated as wholly expendable.
Hence, those who are truly contrite, finding themselves forgiven, cannot but seek forgiveness for others. And the more they recognize their innumerable and enormous sins, and proclaim God’s immeasurable and overflowing grace, the more unabashed love they show for God and for a sinful neighbor; they give thanks all the time and celebrate. Forgiving, they are guaranteed forgiveness themselves, even if they might have sinned heinously like the greedy and unjust rich man who took a poor man’s only and highly cherished possession (2 Sam 12, 1-4).
So then, worthy of Jesus is a fellowship meal in which those scorned by society are also welcomed and attended to. Experiencing the love that never gives up and endures all things, the partakers are impelled to see to it that they have “this esteem and tenderness for the neighbor” and practice “this charity which chases away the first feelings of scorn and the seed of antipathy” (Coste XII, 265).